August 11th, 2009 08:42 EST
People of the Corn Come to America
Bipolar America manufactures polarities better than it makes anything else, including sense. Polarities and contradictions: hawk, dove, global cop, nativist.
Convention posits these polarities in red states and blue states. But I`d like to suggest an alternative, more surreal geography, for we are surely the quintessentially surreal country. I think we Americans live either in Boteroland or Lembruckland, and so far only the corn syrup manufacturers have figured out how to exploit the difference.
Fernando Botero is the seventy-six-year-old Colombian painter who peoples the world with roly-polys. We don`t know whether to laugh or cry when confronted with his anthropomorphic volley balls. When I watch people in museums regarding Botero`s people I sense discomfort.
Wilhelm Lehmbruck was a German sculptor whose gaunt figures suggest Christ crucified and returned to us. He shares with the Swiss Italian Alberto Giacometti a fixation on the bone beneath the flesh, a kind of ascended nakedness.
The people waddling from their guzzlers into fast food emporiums and malls are citizens of Boteroland. They can`t do half the physical tasks that seemed ordinary to my generation. They can`t work our farms and orchards, they can`t ride bikes or play high school and college games. But they sure do know how to howl about taxes and being forced to pay for their neighbors` health care.
We can`t depend on them to defend us or to excel in behalf of a greater society, but we can depend on them to drive up our medical costs, while squawking about socialism, guns and them, " meaning anybody who doesn`t look like their first cousin. They`re not indigenous to red states or blue states. They live in a corn-syrup daze. When they vote they vote to support a corrupt insurance society, a welfare state for crooks. They`re sugar-disabled. Their condition, like pervasive alcoholism, remains an open secret, these people of the corn. And their numbers are growing.
The Lehmbruckians are the slender minority. Many of them are paid astronomical sums for being tall and thin. Some are moderates, others are anorexic extremists. They constitute the standard from which the rest of us incresingly differ, an elite that drives us to drink. We worship and despise them. They`re not to be seen in Wal-Mart or Dunkin Donuts "that`s Boteroland "but they`re entirely too much in evidence wherever money is spent conspicuously.
Our political right wing, which has seized upon polarity as manna, probably does better in Boteroland than in Lehmbruckland. Lies, after all, are fattening, the potato chips of the mind. What`s good for the corn lobby has got to be good for our kids, even if it makes them bob like buoys.
The left wing, on the other hand, is homeless and often feckless. It has never felt comfortable in its own skin, even when it has little of it, and it`s always being jerked around by moderates` love affair with Wall Street, which is not unlike an addiction to porn sites and hookers. We`re witnessing this obscene addiction in Washington now.
If there`s a middle ground, I haven`t found an artist to portray it. I thought of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but then I thought of ice cream sundaes and the peachy Madame Renoir. I thought of Amedeo Modigliani but decided the responsibility is too much for his mistress-model, Jeanne HÃ©buterne, to bear.
Donatello, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Sandro Botticelli come to mind, but too much unalloyed beauty causes despair in us commoners. Dali, too, comes to mind, but life in America needs little help celebrating the surreal.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.